EJ Viso and the crew of the #13 PDVSA HVM Racing entry insist that they will not be reverting to the #33 plate that the Venezuelan carried in his rookie IndyCar season, despite seeing a top ten starting position translate into twelfth at the flag in Saturday's SunTrust Indy Challenge at Richmond.
Viso was encouraged with the seventh starting position at the 0.75-mile D-shaped oval - the second-highest of his season after gridding fourth in Long Beach - and there was cautious optimism that a first top ten finish of a hard-knock season may be possible through the early part of the 300-lap race.
Viso kept pace with the leaders for much of the race, only to see the HVM team's misfortune return as two untimely caution periods thwarted their efforts. He fell two laps down on lap 138 when the yellow flags flew while the #13 car was on pit-road for a scheduled stop and, while waiting for a timely caution that might get him back on track, was thwarted when Helio Castroneves hit the wall to bring out another caution on lap 248 - just as Viso was pitting again.
The second-year racer ran in the top 15 for the remainder of the race, and managed a late pass on Ed Carpenter to take twelfth place, before insisting that the result still represented an upturn in form.
"Even if it's not the result we were looking for - especially after the strong pace we had through all the practices and qualifying - it's something that's going to pump our emotions a bit higher," Viso said of his first finish of the season, "We were all a little bit low because we hadn't finished a race so far, so just finishing means a lot for the team and for me.
"We had a very fast car - I was running at the same pace as the leaders, and I was saving fuel all through the race. It's just that yellow came out at the wrong time for us and that put us a couple laps down. I just need to thank the team and everyone that has supported me going through these difficult races. I want to thank them and tell them that I've been working harder than ever to achieve podiums. We've got the potential and we've improved the car a lot."
There is little time for the team to reflect on its achievement, however, as a return to the road courses beckons at Watkins Glen International this weekend.
“We are obviously happy to have that finish under our belts - we had various disappointments over the first seven races of the season, and we knew we had to turn things around," team principal Keith Wiggins commented, "Even though we had our setbacks, we kept working to make the necessary changes to improve, and I think we reached a turning point. The important thing is that we had a competitive car. It's just a shame the cautions worked against us.”